Farquharson Construction – 20 years of quality construction

Farquharson Construction – 20 years of quality construction

Since its establishment two decades ago Farquharson Construction (Pty) Ltd has developed a reputation as a high quality construction company.
The company was founded in 1997 by James Coutts, a civil engineer by profession. From the outset it focused on executing each project, irrespective of size, with the same meticulous attention to detail. High quality workmanship is assured through the careful selection of skilled artisans and specialised and experienced contractors who share Farquharson Construction’s commitment to quality.

Over the years the company offering has been extended to include turnkey projects and project management with the result that Farquharson Construction has extensive experience in the commercial, industrial, retail, residential and civil sectors.

As long standing members of the Master Builders Association North (MBA North) and the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), Farquharson Construction conforms to a strong code of ethics and ensures a professional approach in its dealings with both clients and suppliers.

This ethical and professional culture has stood the company in good stead with the result that many of its staff and contractors have worked with the company for several years and have, in fact, managed to grow their own businesses on the back of Farquharson Construction’s success.

In any labour intensive organisation staffing can become a challenge. Currently employing a team of 60 people, including a management team of 22, a family oriented culture coupled with a commitment to staff and supplier development has ensured that both employees and contractors alike are loyal to the company with the result that longevity has become a cornerstone of the company culture. Staff turnover is remarkably low which has allowed the company to retain much of its expertise.

Farquharson Construction’s commitment towards delivering superior quality has allowed it to develop a good reputation in the industry and strong business relationships. “We’re not just building a structure for a client but what we hope is an enduring relationship,” explains Coutts.

Gareth Letcher joined Farquharson Construction 18 years ago after completing his BSc in Building Construction Technology and is today a director of the company. He says he has learned to expect the unexpected during the course of his career and to manage problems as they arise.

“I was thrown into the deep end soon after joining and quickly discovered how little I had actually learned at university,” recalls Letcher. “It was a steep learning curve but before long I was running my own projects and within a few years I was managing three or four projects consecutively.”

Many of the company’s subcontractors have worked with Farquharson Construction for over a decade, in the process growing their own businesses exponentially. The company is committed to developing people and makes a significant investment in training and development both for its permanent employees and sub-contractors. This strategy has allowed even sub-contractors to grow their businesses. “One of our contractors – who started out as a one man business – now employs over 300 people,” reports Letcher.

Project manager, Chris Hoile, has been with the company for the past 11 years and has seen it grow from managing small projects to large office blocks, car show rooms and shopping centres. “I’ve been in the construction industry for most of my working life. To be successful in this industry you need to have a passion for construction. If you have that passion it’s a very rewarding industry.”

Given South Africa’s scarcity of skills, Farquharson Construction employs university graduates and provides mentorship and training. “There’s a real lack of skills at all levels,” reports Hoile. “At a tertiary level we’ve found that most graduates don’t have the required skills and so we took the decision to upskill them – at the very least they need to know how to build a wall correctly if they ever hope to project manage an entire job. Artisan standards too are dropping as older and more experienced artisans such as carpenters retire. We are therefore committed to upskilling our labour pool in order to meet our stringent quality criteria.”

The team agree that what makes Farquharson unique is its consistent focus on quality and a vastly superior customer service ethic. “We treat our clients in the same way we would like to be treated,” points out Letcher. “We consider customer service paramount. Although we have grown significantly larger than a small family business, we have retained that same culture. It’s a culture which allows for continuous, direct and open communication between Farquharson Projects directors and our clients.” The fact that close to 70% of the company’s business is recurring is proof that this strategy has worked.

A founding member of the Green Building Councilof South Africa (GBCSA), Farquharson Construction is excited about the opportunities becoming available as a result of renewable technologies. “We are staying abreast of new technologies such as 3D printing as there is no doubt that they will have a significant impact on the way construction occurs in the future,” says Coutts.

Farquharson Construction was involved with one of Johannesburg’s first 6-Star Green rated buildings, Upper Grayston in Sandton. “Green building has yet to take off in any significant way in South Africa,” reports Letcher, “but it’s likely to be the next wave.”

One of the projects the company is most proud of is the Victory Park Virgin Active gym in Gauteng. Faced with challenging time constraints – the project had to be completed in just nine months – as well as ground water issues, it was a tough job by any standards. The company’s dedication to ensuring the completion of a high quality project was rewarded when Virgin Active representatives from the UK voted the gym the closest to perfection they had ever achieved.

However, that’s far from the only project the team is proud of: Corner Main Office Park in Bryanston, Johannesburg is a project that ran like clockwork and looks fantastic, agree the team. “Each project is a learning experience and helps us to better manage the next project,” says Hoile.

Key to the success of any construction and property development company in today’s constrained economic environment is careful management of cash flow. “Our back office team are the real unsung heroes of the company,” confirms Letcher. “We manage our cash flow carefully and we’re fortunate to have a great buyer who negotiates to get the best prices possible.”

The team attributes Farquharson’s attention to detail and focus on quality to the company’s founder James Coutts. “His philosophy of striving for perfection on every job has been passed down to every member of the team,” reports Allan Janse van Rensburg, a quantity surveyor who joined Farquharson nearly two years ago.

Despite significant challenges facing the construction industry, including a lack of investment and a declining skills pool, Farquharson Construction is committed to ensuring it continues to grow and continues to provide the same high level of service. “In an industry in which charlatans continue to give the industry a bad name, we will always strive to provide high quality workmanship and a meticulous attention to detail,” concludes Coutts.

For further information contact Kim Williams at Farquharson on +27 (0)11 467 4090
email: kim@farquharson.co.za

Posted in Cover story.

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